The Book of James Is A Challenge

Listed below are topics of challenge with related chapters and verses in the book of James:

Suffering–trials and temptations–1:1-18

Hearing and doing–listening and doing–1:19-27

Not playing favorites–favoritism–2:1-13

Maintaining good works–Faith and deeds–2:14-26

Controlling the tongue–taming the tongue–3:1-12

Who we listen to–two kinds of wisdom–3:13-18

Resisting the world–submit yourselves to God–4:1-12

Planning with God–boasting about tomorrow–4:13-17

The use of our resources–warning to rich oppressors–5:1-12

Sickness–The Prayer of Faith–5:13-20

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Who Are You, Jesus? (Mark 8:27-38)

Jesus doesn’t take any prisoners in his denunciation of Peter at Caesarea Philippi.  He calls him Satan.  That’s a pretty strong condemnation for what might seem a small thing.

Jesus has openly declared to his disciples that he’s going to be crucified and resurrected.  Peter has a kind of “parking-lot-conversation” with Jesus.  You know what that means.  It’s the conversation that happens outside of the regular church meeting where people say what’s really on their minds.  For whatever reason, Peter doesn’t want to “rebuke” Jesus in front of everybody so he pulls him aside.  Maybe he even lowers his voice and keeps one hand on Jesus’ arm or back, trying to tell him that talk of crucifixion, even with resurrection, is not a marketable message.

But Jesus, who rarely minces words, tells him that it is all or nothing.  If you want to follow me, he says, then take up your cross.  There is no middle way here.  If you want to save your life then you must lose it.

Mark’s Gospel is told against the backdrop  of the Roman Empire, an empire that fostered inequality and corruption and by the time Mark’s gospel came into being, had destroyed Jerusalem and burned its massive Temple to the ground–scattering a whole population, decimating a religious tradition (Judaism) and slaughtering thousands indiscriminately.

You could not, as Mark’s Gospel outlines, work on behalf of the poor and outcast and not be considered an enemy of Rome.  It’s hard for us to imagine a world where your  inclination to help others would be suspect and, that to be a member of a religion might mark you for a horrible death.  Mark’s world was a world of secret meetings and hushed voices and fear.

When he takes Jesus aside, Peter is embodying that fear.  We might think it reckless and, if we cared about Jesus, we might, like Peter, pull him aside and whisper, “Shhhh.”  That’s the kind of thing Jesus did in declaring his death.

So how’s that going for you, O twenty-first century Christian?  Have you denied yourself?  Fought for anything that might get you into trouble?  Have you put your life on the line for the Gospel?

What have you done to advance the idea of “A Just World for All?”  How has your church led the way?  Have we been willing to give up our lives to save them?

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Church World Service Tool Project

Our special offering for the remainder of the year will be to the Church World Service tool campaign.  Just as we have offered CWS blankets as a special offering, we have an opportunity to join in this worthwhile project by providing tools for building construction and maintenance to our friends in Haiti and other devastated and underdeveloped countries.  Help us help even more families through your generosity to this project.  “Thank boxes” can be found on the front table or at the back of the church.

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Be Opened: Faith Formation Sunday (Mark 7:24-37)

What does it mean to be opened, to find oneself changed and transformed, maybe even stopped in one’s tracks by the touch of Jesus?  Certainly, the touch of Jesus as described in the gospels is an expression of a great love.  Love is more than an abstract thing.  It is felt by the giving and receiving of it as in our Three Great Loves Campaign–Love of Neighbor, Love of Children and Love of Creation. There are so many ways to love our neighbor. We can feed them and house them and clothe them and welcome them.  Another way to show love is to show respect for each other especially when we disagree.

While divisive conversations may seem like a product of the 21st century, Ben Franklin (signer of the Declaration of Independence) thought his own age to be quite uncivil. He organized discussion groups in which moral questions, politics and philosophy would be debated with an eye for truth and civility.  These groups began with his friends in 1727.  his friends were a scrivener, a joiner and two cobblers–not, as you might think, erudite folks from Harvard or Yale, but working people who met with him every Friday evening at a Philadelphia “alehouse” to discuss issues of morality and politics.  That was Franklin’s answer to incivility in his day–structured discussion with a diverse group of friends.

Churches today in the UCC are figuring out ways to have civil discourse about things that matter to our world.  Among those have been churches who have embarked on loving discussions about LGBT inclusion in the life of congregations.  At Rocky Hill UCC in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, they developed a Covenant that would order these conversations.  It says:  Our purpose is to promote understanding. We will treat each other with caring and respect, as God’s beloved children. We will take time for prayer. We will speak in the first person “I”, and from our own experience. We will speak one at a time. We will listen for understanding, especially when we seem to disagree. We will speak and seek the truth in love. We will allow each other equal “air time.”  We will ask questions for clarification, not for judgment.

Rocky Hill UCC understood themselves to be a diverse congregation theologically but they still embarked on a two-year conversation based on the above Covenant. At the end, they voted overwhelmingly to become Open and Affirming. Loving one’s neighbor can be about a process as much as a result.

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Expansive Images of God

MIDWIFE–Psalm 22:9-21

MOTHER–Numbers 11:12-13; Deuteronomy 32:18; Job 30:28-29; Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 46:3-4: Isaiah 49:15; Isaiah 66:9; Hosea 11:3-4, John 16:21; Romans 8:22; I Peter 2:2-3

MOTHER BEAR–Hosea 13:8

SHEPHERD–John 10:11, 14; Psalm 23

WOMAN–Luke 15:8-10

BAKER–Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20-21

EAGLE–Deuteronomy 21:11-12; Exodus 19:4

HEN–Matthew 23:37; Ruth 2:12; Psalm 57:1; Psalm 61:4; Luke 13:34; Psalm 17:8

FIRE–Deuteronomy 4:24; Acts 2:3

WIND–Acts 2:3, John 3:8

ROCK–Isaiah 17:10; Deuteronomy 32:18

WATER–Jeremiah 17:13

LIGHT–John 8:12; Isaiah 60:2-3

BREAD–John 6:33-35

VINE–John 15:1

WORD–John 1:1

WISDOM–Luke 11:49; I Corinthians 1:24

I AM–Exodus 3:14

POTTER–Jeremiah 18:1-11; Job 10:8-9

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How Shall We Speak?

When we think of justice-making, we usually think of taking action–like joining a peace action network, sending messages to elected officials about legislation, marching for peace and human rights, or organizing in our communities to make life better, safer and more just. We do not often think about the words we use–but we should.

Since 1973, the United Church of Christ has been at the forefront of efforts to promote awareness about gender-inclusive language and official policy for UCC publications. The words we use reflect the world in which we live, and words can also shape that same world, for better or for worse. Whether we are talking about God or each other, words can limit or expand our abilities to include or exclude others.

In 1993, the UCC Office for Church life and Leadership created the Inclusive Language Covenant stating the UCC stance on inclusive language and the barriers that can be created by using outdated expressions and imagery just because “it has always been done that way” and “it has been tradition!”

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” (Galatians 3:28). With these words, the Apostle Paul breaks through the imperfections, inequities, and historical particularities of his world to a startling vision of human unity in Christ. Like Paul, thoughtful Christians today are still concerned about the various barriers of nation, race, power, and sex that divide the human family.

In particular, many Christians who have reflected on both Jesus’ reconciling ministry and Paul’s interpretive words are today questioning their churches’ traditional use of “exclusive” language–language, that is, which uses masculine imagery and terms to describe “normative” or general human experience, or language that implies God is a “male” deity with solely masculine attributes.

Such language, it is felt, not only alienates and excludes increasing numbers of individuals from meaningful worship; even more, it subtly sanctions and perpetuates a culture, both secular and ecclesiastical, in which women and others have systematically been ignored, subordinated, and denied positions of authority.

The UCC inclusive language covenant strive to use language in such a way that gender, race, ethnicity, age, physical ability, educational attainment, financial status, and national origin not become word barriers to persons as it recognizes that all are created in the image of God and are included among the people of God.

What is sought is language to include male, female, and gender-neutral images of God, taking particular care so that they do not inadvertently suggest that God is exclusively associated with one gender. (Examples:  “God in God’s wisdom” rather than “God in his wisdom; “people” rather than “men” “humankind” rather than “mankind;” “forebears” rather than “forefathers.”)

It is clear that the problem of finding appropriately inclusive language for use in the Church is a complex one, full of literal and emotional roadblocks. It is a problem that will not be solved simply by addressing God as Mother or Father or by changing hymn stanzas here and there.

The structure of liturgies, the casual forgetfulness of daily conversation, the limitations of language itself all present formidable obstacles to verbal equality. What is finally at stake, however, is the full affirmation of all God’s human creation–not just half of it.  Such an affirmation will inevitably require, in the words of Christian Century editor Jean Caffey Lyles, both compassion  and compromise.

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Celebrating 145 Years! September 16, 2018

St. John’s UCC will celebrate its 145th anniversary on Sunday, September 16.  The celebration begins with the 10:30 a.m. worship service.  Reverend Daniel Busch, Northwestern Ohio Association Minister, will be the special speaker.  St. John’s choir will sing under the direction of Dr. Crystal Sellers Battle, and special music will be provided by Sue Hardwick, organist, and Carolyn Bee, pianist.  Former pastors, members, and friends are invited to this special event.

A delicious meal will be prepared and served by Chef Connie Kempf.  The dinner will consist of Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, vegetable, salad, and dessert.  Reservations are requested for the meal and may be made by contacting the church office (419-358-5641).

Come and join the celebration!


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Heifer Mission Project Exceeded Its Goal

Thanks to the support from the members of St. John’s, the Board of Christian Education was able to exceed its goal and collected $1,670 for our Heifer mission project.

The money will provide a heifer, water buffalo, llama, sheep, pig, trio of rabbits, honey bees, flock of chicks, ducks, fish, and tree seedlings to struggling and hungry families in economically impoverished countries.

Thank you, St. John”s, for helping to feed and clothe the least and the lowest of our sisters and brothers.

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Fall and Winter Hours Begin Sunday, September 9, 2018

St. John ‘s UCC fall and winter schedule will begin on Sunday, September 9, with Sunday School starting at 9:30 a.m., followed by worship at 10:30 a.m.

The Children’s Hour takes place at the same time as worship.  Children proceed to the educational wing of the church following the children’s sermon.

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This Week at St. John’s UCC

Centering Words for September 16:  O living God of past and future, we praise you for this present moment.  Fill us with your joy and empower us with your Holy Spirit that our strength may be renewed to sing a new song of your glory in a world which longs for justice and peace.  All this we ask in the name of Jesus in whom we become your new creation.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 18–Ladies meet at LuLu’s; 9 a.m.; TOPS, 6 p.m.;

Wednesday, September 19–Men meet at Arby’s, 8:30 a.m.;  Excellence in Ministry, 10 am. to noon; Choir practice, 7 p.m.

Thursday, September 20–Pastor Carol at Maple Crest, 2:30 p.m.; Community dinner at Senior Center

Sunday, September 23–Memorial Committee meets after worship

Future Events

Monday, September 24–Noodles prepared for beef and noodle dinner, 9 a.m.

Tuesday, September 25–Our Daily Bread, 10:30 a.m.; Interment of the ashes of Melvena Lewis, 10:30 a.m. , Maple Grove Cemetery

Tuesday, October 9–Trip to Mansfield Reformatory (tour)

Friday, October 26–Beef and noodle dinner, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Thought for the Day: May we, the people of St. Johns United Church of Christ who, like the great could of witnesses before us, grateful for our heritage, aware of the sacrifices of our mothers and fathers in the faith, dedicate ourselves anew in Serving others; Accepting all; Integrating heart and soul; Neutralizing fear as we recognize joy; Teaching the world; Joining Jesus on the journey; Offering support and love on our faith journeys;Holding out  hope to all; Nurturing those in need; and Shepherding friends and strangers.

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